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Nurse sacked after offering to pray with patients awaits tribunal decision

Christian nurse sacked by NHS after offering to pray with patients before surgery claims unfair dismissal.
Sarah Kuteh

A Christian nurse sacked after discussing religion with patients and offering to pray with them before surgery has told an employment tribunal she was unfairly dismissed.

Sister Sarah Kuteh, who has 15 years' nursing experience, was dismissed for gross misconduct last year from Darent Valley Hospital in Dartford, Kent, following complaints from patients.

An employment tribunal was held in Ashford, Kent, on Thursday. After a day of evidence, tribunal judge Martin Kurrein reserved judgement and a decision is expected within the next month.

'It was like a Monty Python skit'

Statements submitted to the tribunal hearing detailed how one patient with cancer, who was waiting for bowel surgery, complained Ms Kuteh told him that if he prayed to God he would have a better chance of survival.

Another

A Christian nurse sacked after discussing religion with patients and offering to pray with them before surgery has told an employment tribunal she was unfairly dismissed.


Sarah Kuteh claims her dismissal from Darent Valley Hospital was unfair  Photo: PA

Sister Sarah Kuteh, who has 15 years' nursing experience, was dismissed for gross misconduct last year from Darent Valley Hospital in Dartford, Kent, following complaints from patients.

An employment tribunal was held in Ashford, Kent, on Thursday. After a day of evidence, tribunal judge Martin Kurrein reserved judgement and a decision is expected within the next month.

'It was like a Monty Python skit'

Statements submitted to the tribunal hearing detailed how one patient with cancer, who was waiting for bowel surgery, complained Ms Kuteh told him that if he prayed to God he would have a better chance of survival.

Another patient said being subjected to religious 'fervour' by Ms Kuteh was 'bizarre', and compared the experience with a 'Monty Python skit'. A further patient felt Ms Kuteh spent more time talking about religion than completing a pre-operative questionnaire.

Eight complaints were made by 'extremely vulnerable' patients facing surgery, the tribunal heard.

Ms Kuteh was dismissed by Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust last August and referred to the Nursing and Midwifery Council. Pavel Stroilov, representing Ms Kuteh, said: 'A nurse without compassion would be unworthy of the name.

'Good nurse's kind words'

'On top of performing her immediate duties, a good nurse would try and find kind words to say to her patient.'

But Darent Valley Hospital general manager for medicine Sarah Collins, said her 'spirituality blurred the professional boundary' between herself and patients.

Ms Collins said in a statement: 'Despite having been warned against such behaviour on two occasions, she persisted with questioning patients on religious grounds. Following reasonable management requests formed a pivotal aspect of Mrs Kuteh's contract of employment with the trust.'

Ms Collins said there had been a fundamental breach of trust and confidence.

Ms Kuteh's assertion that she felt compelled to continue to hold religious discussions with patients concerned me,' Ms Collins added.

Evidence 'unsatisfactory'

Mr Stroilov said his client was not adequately informed of the allegations against her before an investigatory meeting.

He claimed the evidence of patients' complaints was wholly unsatisfactory, consisting mainly of 'astonishingly brief and vague handwritten notes' made long after the event.

Mr Stroilov said the nurse's request to call the complainants as witnesses was unreasonably refused on a 'false premise' of confidentiality.

'I didn't impose beliefs'

Giving evidence at the tribunal, Ms Kuteh said: 'I'm serious about my religion but I don't think I imposed my religion on patients.'

She said she would sometimes be prompted to initiate religious discussion with patients by questions on the pre-op questionnaire.

She told the hearing: 'I don't want it to look like it was a habit. I would not always initiate it, only when I'm prompted in the questionnaire.'

Ms Kuteh said she would have liked to have had supervised practice and a weekly review instead of being sacked.

She said: 'I love nursing, I love what I do and I love talking to patients.'

Discussion was 'unwanted' 

An appeal panel previously upheld the decision to sack Ms Kuteh.

Victoria Leivers-Carruth, who chaired the hospital appeal panel, said the panel believed Ms Kuteh was using her one-to-one time with patients to impose her religious beliefs on them.

'It was apparent to us that Mrs Kuteh was disciplined because she had engaged in conversations about religion that were unwanted by patients and contrary to her line manager's instructions.'

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